Homeopathic drugs are a growing market, worth close to $3billion in the US. They tend to include plants, minerals and sometimes animal excretions and producers claim they can be used to treat cancer, dementia, ADHD and a range of other medical conditions – ranging from minor complaints to serious conditions. However, the US Food and Drug Administration has urged consumers to avoid these types of remedies, as it claims there’s no evidence to support the claims and they could even be unsafe for use.
The FDA’s announcement recommends these treatments offer no proven benefits, and should be avoided by consumers looking for alternative treatments for serious illnesses. Under the current evidence, the FDA has not approved any homeopathic drugs, as it claims there’s no evidence that they are effective or safe for public use. “People may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse — that may cause significant and even irreparable harm,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a recent statement.
The agency hasn’t denied that it would like to see these types of remedies removed from shelves, and although it won’t be enforced any time soon, it hopes to introduce new guidelines that would require drugs that it considers dangerous, toxic or harmful to be taken off sale. This would include both drugs that are not taken orally and topically, as well as those aimed at more vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions.
This isn’t the first time the FDA has taken action against homeopathic remedies, and several products have been removed from sale due to health risks. These include teething gels for infants which contained belladonna, an ingredient that has been linked with an increased risk of seizures or even death. Other remedies were found to contain strychnine – which is commonly used in rat poison and can be lethal in high doses. It’s also taken action against cold remedies that were found to contain zinc and, in some cases, can cause a loss of smell.
The scrutiny among medical professionals over homeopathic drugs isn’t new, and meetings have previously been held where critics have urged the FDA to take a stronger stance on treatments. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also announced that it would be putting stronger rules in place in an attempt to regulate the growing industry. Under current policies, all health claims must be supported by some scientific evidence, and companies must steer clear of “deceptive advertising or labeling” when targeting consumers.
The new crackdown on the homeopathic industry has been welcomed by many health experts. Although advocates of the products claim they can be beneficial and are usually harmless, scientists have been questioning their safety and effectiveness for some time and claim tighter regulations can only improve the safety and wellbeing of the public. The FDA is now looking to make final amendments to its proposed policies. “We respect that some individuals want to use alternative treatments,” Gottlieb said, “but the FDA has a responsibility to protect the public from products that may not deliver any benefit and have the potential to cause harm.”